Having won the first of three Twenty20 internationals against Ireland in a thriller in Dehradun, Afghanistan will be buoyed going into the second T20I on Saturday, 23 February.
Afghanistan v Ireland
Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Dehradun
Saturday, 23 February, 6:30pm local time, 1:00pm GMT
"The positive intent we showed, even against Rashid, I don't mind seeing that."— ICC (@ICC) February 22, 2019
Ireland lost a thrilling T20I against Afghanistan, but Paul Stirling found plenty of positives.
Afghanistan's potent bowling attack continued to impress in the first T20I, restricting Ireland to just 132/6 in 20 overs after they had opted to bat. The spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi – the Player of the Match – claimed five wickets between them, giving away just 57 runs in 12 overs.
Afghanistan would, needless to say, want their bowlers to continue in this rich vein of form, but their concerns surround largely their batting: they need a more solid display than what they managed in the first T20I. They stumbled significantly in a 137-run chase, and it took an unbeaten 86-run stand for the fifth wicket from Nabi and Najibullah Zadran to take them past the finish line after Afghanistan were reduced to 50/5 within the first eight overs.
Afghanistan have a 100% win record in Dehradun – four victories in four games – and will want to continue that streak in their adopted fortress.
What a game!— ICC (@ICC) February 21, 2019
An incredible win for Afghanistan with Mohammad Nabi (49*) and Najibullah Zadran (40) starring. Afghanistan looked out of the contest at 50/5 but an unbeaten 86-run partnership has given them the series lead. #AFGvIRE SCORECARD ⬇️https://t.co/Yao6PIKWwRpic.twitter.com/qeOHRxLRjM
Ireland, meanwhile, will also be expected to raise their game with the bat. A lot of responsibility falls on their captain Paul Stirling and the veteran Kevin O'Brien, who was recently promoted up the order to open the innings. Both underwhelmed in the first T20I, and Ireland never really recovered after losing them early.
George Dockrell and Stuart Poynter looked promising with the bat, adding 67* runs for the sixth wicket, and they will be expected to continue that form in the second game.
There are doubts over the participation of Stuart Thompson, who had to walk off the field halfway through his third over in the first T20I, having pulled a hamstring during his run-up. Ireland will hope the pacer has recovered in time for the second game.
Ireland have lost eight straight games against Afghanistan in T20Is, and that is an unwanted streak they will be desperate to break on Saturday.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan): Khan, the No.1 bowler on the MRF Tyres ICC T20 Player Rankings for Bowling, is arguably the best match-winner in T20I cricket today. He will be Afghanistan's biggest ace going into the second game in Dehradun, where he has now claimed 10 wickets in four games.
Paul Stirling (Ireland): Stirling is the only Ireland cricketer in the top 30 of the MRF Tyres ICC T20 Player Rankings for Batting, and is in decent form at the moment. He was their second highest run-scorer in the quadrangular series in Oman, and got a start in the first T20I (25-ball 23) before falling to Nabi.
Partly cloudy conditions are forecast on Saturday, but there is no threat of rain. The surface is not an out-and-out batting track, and has in the past aided the slower bowlers.
Afghanistan: Asghar Afghan (c), Shafiqullah Shafiq (wk), Hazratullah Zazai, Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Janat, Mohammad Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fareed Malik, Zahir Khan, Usman Ghani, Najeeb Tarakai, Sayed Shirzad, Ziaur Rahman
Ireland: Paul Stirling (c), Stuart Poynter (wk), Kevin O Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Stuart Thompson, Simi Singh, George Dockrell, Shane Getkate, Joshua Little, Boyd Rankin, Peter Chase, James Shannon, Harry Tector, Andy McBrine, Lorcan Tucker
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